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History of Archives & Special Collections

The Special Collections Department was formally established at the University of Connecticut in 1965 to house, organize, protect and service the rare, valuable and fragile items owned by the University Library.  Materials were collected to enlarge and to enrich existing collections in support of teaching interests, curriculums, and research requirements of the faculty.

The University Library began to expand its archival program in the 1970s to support more effectively the teaching and research programs of the University.  The Historical Manuscripts and Archives Department was formally established in 1979 in order to collect, preserve, organize, and service primary source materials documenting the history of Connecticut and the University.  In addition to the University of Connecticut Archives, the department collected personal papers and organizational records relating to the economic, social and political history of Connecticut, and to a lesser extent the remainder of New England, primarily for the period since the Civil War.

In 1988, the holdings of the Historical Manuscripts and Archives Department and the Special Collections Department of the University Libraries were combined and established as a single department of the University Library.  Planning was underway for the construction of a new preservation facility to house the University of Connecticut’s most significant primary research resources, demonstrating their centrality and importance to the university’s teaching, research and public service missions.  The Archives Research Center enabled the university to expand its collecting to obtain far broader and more significant primary source collections relating both to Connecticut history and to national and international topics.

The construction of the new facility began in 1993.  The newly-named Thomas J. Dodd Research Center honored Thomas Dodd’s service as Executive Trial Counsel in the International Military Tribunal, the first of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center was dedicated in October 1995 by then President Bill Clinton.  Opening to the public in January 1996, the 55,000 square-foot building has since housed departments and programs with a common interest in history and human rights including Archives & Special Collections, the Human Rights Institute, Center for Oral History, and the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.